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Why Do We Sin?

December 19, 2013 by  
Filed under Fr. Fortea, Sin, Spiritual Warfare, Temptation

Dear Father Fortea, why do we sin?

We sin because, due to the effects of original sin, our wills have been weakened, and we give in to temptation. When we are tempted, we must choose between two options: doing good or doing evil, committing a sin or living in virtue. In temptation, the will has to choose between two options; it knows that one option is good and the other evil but feels attracted to choose the bad.

Why do we sin?Temptation is not a defect of the intellect. If we did not know that a particular action was sinful, we would be ignorant and not guilty – subjectively speaking – of committing sin. To sin, we must know that we are choosing evil.* There is no sin without a bad conscience. This is what makes sin so interesting from the intellectual point of view: Why do we choose an evil knowing that it is evil? This is a real mystery.

The simple answer (but one which does not fully explain the matter) is that we sin due to weakness. While this is true, it is also true that we are not so weak that we are unable to resist temptation. God gives us the grace to do what is right and to grow in virtue – if we choose to live in His grace and allow it to increase within us through obedience to His will, and through prayer and the sacraments. If we were not capable of resisting temptation, we would have no moral responsibility, i.e., there would be no sin because we would have no choice. Sin requires us to consciously choose to do wrong. Therefore, although we are weak, we can always resist. We cannot excuse ourselves by claiming ignorance of the intellect or weakness of the will. We do evil because we want to.

It could be said that we do evil for the good we get from it. But the intellect, on some level, knows that any good we derive from sin is a “poisoned apple” – it will taste good in our mouths, but it will be sour in our stomachs. For example, we may choose to drink alcohol excessively on a particular occasion because we want to “feel no pain” and want to “drown our sorrows.” But this “good” holds a lot of bad within it. No matter how attractive the “good” of a particular sin appears to be, our conscience tells us: “Don’t do it.” To say that we do evil because it appears to be good is an explanation for why we sin, but sin and evil remain somewhat of a mystery. Perhaps the “poisoned apples” we often eat – despite knowing them to be poisoned – can never be explained completely in this life.

* Note: Since evil often presents itself as something good, we need to have a well-formed conscience, i.e., one that is formed in accord with the teachings of the Church and right reason (see CCC 1783 – 1785).

Editor’s Note:  To learn more about spiritual warfare and demonology, Catholic Spiritual Direction recommends Fr. Fortea’s excellent book, Interview With An Exorcist – An Insider’s Look at the Devil, Demonic Possession, and the Path to Deliverance.


Art for this post on Why Do We Sin?: Vipera ammodytes, photographed by Haplochromis, September 2006 own work, CCA-SA 3.0 Unported, Wikimedia Commons.

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About Fr. Jose Antonio Fortea

Father José Antonio Fortea is not only an exorcist, but also a writer, and parish priest. He once thought he would lead what he has termed ordinary life as an attorney in Madrid, much as his father did before him, but sensed instead a vocation to the priesthood in his adolescent years. A theology graduate of Navarre University in Spain, Father Fortea wrote a thesis there on exorcism. He has been a practicing exorcist for several decades.

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  • Pat Payne

    Father, the “poisoned apple” concept you’re talking about reminds me of an old saying: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”

    And I’ve seen that in my own life. I commit the same sins over and over again, thinking that “this time” it’ll make me happy. It doesn’t.

  • Jeanette

    Jesus came down from Heaven, from the bosom of the Father, to be with us, to suffer with and for us and save us for Heaven. The Word was made flesh and dealt amongst us! We should keep this as a meditation with all its wonderful implications during the Advent Season. This will help us keep on track and keep us in the way of Truth and to avoid temptation against us! It is important to meditate on this for the Advent Season. Wishing you a Merry & Blessed Christmas!

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